2,744 students file class action lawsuit against universities and country, demanding reimbursement of tuition fees
University students hold a press conference in Seoul Central District Court on May 6 ahead of the first class action hearing over tuition reimbursement. (Yonhap)
The COVID-19 pandemic forced universities to turn to online courses last year. As the coronavirus swept the country, students and faculty struggled to adjust to video-based lessons.
But more than three semesters after the start of the pandemic, students are unhappy with the quality of the online courses.
“After taking the midterm exam in one of my core classes, the teacher didn’t upload any online classes for four weeks without notice,” a student told the Korea Herald.
“The professor then suddenly issued a notification that the lessons would be downloaded for four consecutive days. Two days later, the teacher disappeared after downloading a single lesson.
Some professors don’t even bother to prepare for the new semester, students say.
“A teacher used the same video, which was recorded from the previous semester,” said another student.
“We know that professors are reusing the (same) course material, but I feel like using the same video from the previous semester is out of line. The voice is not even in sync with the video.
According to a third student, her teacher failed to download the lessons on time several times. Once the professor posted only the text of a lecture without any visuals, she added.
When asked if they had done anything about it, the three anonymous students attending different schools said they could not actively raise the issue with their teachers because they were concerned about academic sanctions.
Most complaints come from students, but some professors criticize their colleagues for their unprofessional behavior.
“There are a lot of teachers licensed to go to America (during the pandemic). They half-heartedly teach online courses by not teaching the correct number of hours and not giving students the right education to compete in life, ”an assistant professor at a private university in London told the Korea Herald. Seoul.
“In addition, they are not available during office hours. However, the university still wants full or near full tuition from students. ”
Universities seem to have given up on improving the quality of their online courses. An academic official working in the faculty’s business department said the school has no regulations requiring faculty to teach in a certain way. It depends on each teacher, he added.
Request for reimbursement of tuition fees
According to a national survey conducted in February by the All-Korean University Student Council Network, 91.3% of 4,107 students surveyed said tuition reimbursement was necessary.
And on May 6, Seoul Central District Court held its first hearing in a class action lawsuit filed by 2,744 students against 47 universities and the country. The plaintiffs seek 1 million won ($ 897) per student attending a private school and 500,000 won per student in a public school.
University students pay an average of 6.73 million won per six-month semester, according to government data.
A joint student group demanding reimbursement of tuition fees, led by the All-Korean University Student Council Network, said 110 student plaintiffs withdrew from the litigation after being pressured by their schools.
“Students took midterm exams as online courses were reused, with universities failing to guarantee quality of courses, recurring server connection errors, and continuously changing in-person course policies,” said the group.
“When it comes to the repeatedly raised concerns about students’ right to learn and unsupervised online courses, universities have consistently responded that they are being taken care of. ”
Calling on the court to make a fair decision, the group added that the education ministry and universities must respond to the needs of students.
Last year, the government changed the law to give students the opportunity to sit on a tuition review committee and negotiate scholarships or reduced tuition fees.
But according to the group of students, only 12 of the country’s 290 universities have reimbursed around 10% of their students’ tuition fees or taken corresponding action.
“The position of the schools is that they are not responsible for the violation of the students’ right to learn, because the distance courses were held under special circumstances,” said Park Hyun-seo, the attorney representing the students. complainants.
Universities said labor costs were the same even without in-person classes and they had to pay extra to set up online course systems, according to Park.
The lawyer said a government official submitted a letter to the court claiming that tuition reimbursement depended on the policies of individual universities and that the country had no obligation to come up with a tuition reimbursement plan. .
The next hearing will take place on July 22.
By Kan Hyeong-woo (firstname.lastname@example.org)